Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on hand at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Wednesday to welcome the arrival of a plane bearing the first shipment of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Israel inked a $237.5 million deal with Pfizer last month for 8 million doses of the vaccine, sufficient to inoculate nearly half the country’s population.

On Sunday, the Israeli Health Ministry announced in a joint statement with the Prime Minister’s Office that the country had signed a deal with Moderna, tripling the number of vaccines it will purchase from the company in 2021, from 2 million to 6 million doses, sufficient to vaccinate 3 million citizens. Israel is also in the midst of clinical trials for its own vaccine, called BriLife.

“I have been serving as prime minister of Israel for more than few years, and this is one of the most moving moments,” said Netanyahu. “I have worked very hard, for long months, with the health minister and the people of his ministry in order to bring relief and a solution to the coronavirus pandemic.”

The Israeli premier also expressed his gratitude to Pfizer and its CEO, Albert Bourla, with whom he said he had held his eighth conversation on Tuesday evening. During the conversation, Netanyahu thanked Bourla for his assistance in supplying the vaccines, and an agreement was reached on further supply, according to Netanyahu’s office.

“We are here today on a great holiday for the State of Israel. We see the end. We still need to follow the rules regarding masks, hands and distancing, but the end is in sight. What is important to me is that millions of Israelis be vaccinated,” said Netanyahu.

“I believe in this vaccine. I expect that it will receive the appropriate permits in the coming days and I want the citizens of Israel to be vaccinated. In order to do this, I want to serve as an example for them, and I intend to be the first in the State of Israel to be vaccinated with this vaccine,” he said.

“I am certain that many of you will also do so. We see the light at the end of the pandemic. This is a holiday for Israel.”

From the airport, the vaccines will be transported to a cold-storage facility.

JNS

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